Climate change is likely to have long-term effects on birthing parents and future generations, say researchers.

“Much of the work happening around reproductive health is based on short-term support and services for families, and that’s very important work. But we need to think beyond the immediate goal of a healthy infant in our arms and address the long-term implications of climate change on reproductive health,” says Pauline Mendola, chair of the department of epidemiology and environmental health in the University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions.

Mendola is a coauthor of a recent paper in the journal Fertility and Sterility with Sandie Ha, of the University of California, Merced, that outlines some of the ways in which climate-related events will influence the risks of long-term health impacts for birthing parents and multiple generations of offspring.

“We can already observe climate-related effects on reproductive health and we are only at the beginning of the anticipated declines associated with continued global warming and increased frequency of extreme events,” they write.

When people think about how climate change will affect their lives, their concerns typically center on things like more frequent and intense storms, wildfires, and melting glaciers. But an increasing amount of research is pointing to the role of climate change on long-term and intergenerational health.

Still, a significant proportion of the public remains unaware of the human health implications, the researchers say, pointing out that as climate conditions continue to deteriorate in future generations, less healthy parents will give birth to less healthy offspring.

“As climate-related events become more frequent and intense, evidence suggests that their impacts on health may accumulate across the lifespan for birthing parents,” Mendola and Ha write. “What is even more concerning is that these health impacts may cause a repeating intergenerational cycle and magnify across generations.”

The frequency and severity of exposure to extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and infectious disease risk that people face will increase over time with greater global warming. For younger generations, the burden of all of these stressors “is likely to be overwhelming,” says Ha.

“Parents who are already dealing with the stress of infertility and treatment will face the added burden of climate-related strains,” Ha adds.

Previous research has already linked global warming and extreme weather events due to climate change—such as drought, flood, hurricanes, and wildfires—with multiple chronic complications like cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as decreased fertility.

Read the full article about climate change and reproductive justice by David Hill at Futurity.